When gas station pumps dispense contaminated fuel into your tank, it can cause thousands of dollars in damage. The station that sold the gas is ultimately responsible, but lawmakers made a change recently that seems to be giving gas stations selling bad fuel a pass.
Our KPRC 2 Investigates team met with one Galveston man who has been dealing with one bad gasoline problem, and we’ve also uncovered new information about why it may be so hard for him to get answers.
For years the Texas Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures Division regulated gas stations and investigated complaints about gas quality. Lawmakers in Austin voted to give the authority instead to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
KPRC 2 Investigates discovered that complaints to that state agency move slowly and many never go anywhere at all.
Galveston driver says bad fuel ruined his car
Joe Simmons of Galveston recorded the dark brown muddy mixture he siphoned from the gas tank of his Maserati. The once speedy sports car sputtered and burped less than a mile from the Chevron in the 600 block of Broadway near the Seawall in mid-August. It’s where Simmons had just filled it with 20 gallons of premium gas.
“I took the video,” explains Simmons. “I went back up to the gas station, showed it to the manager explained that you know, I have bad gas, and that I bought it here and he says I had no complaints, he’ll check. He’ll do tests and call me back. I gave him two days, nobody called me back.”
But two days after he reported his issue to the clerk, he noticed the station shut off all of the premium and supreme pumps. Then workers began digging near those same pumps with a tent and tools.
“I can’t get the name of the manager or the station owner. They refuse to cooperate,” said Simmons. “I talked to the court this morning. They said by law, they’re supposed to have it posted in the station and nothing’s posted.”
We wanted to help Simmons get answers. But KPRC 2 Investigates got the same run around when we stopped by. We tried asking the clerk questions about the alleged bad gas. Here is what he had to say:
“Everything is all right. Everything is all right now,” the clerk told us. “We fixed everything. Everything outside, but what was his complaint? I don’t know. Maybe he got water in the gas.”
What happens if you get bad gasoline?
If you somehow get bad gas in your vehicle, it won’t take long for you to figure it out. Usually, your vehicle won’t get too far without stopping. You’ll notice rough idling, stalling, odd sounds and difficulty starting up.
“And it just completely stopped. I tried to turn it on again and it wouldn’t turn on,” said Simmons.
Simmons filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. A spokesperson tells us his complaint is still under investigation.
Remember the case we told you about in July? Hahleemah Wright’s BMW stalled after she said she filled her gas tank with contaminated gas from a Valero on Old Spanish Trail. More than two months later she has yet to get a response from TDLR about the complaint she filed.
Complaints about bad gasoline
KPRC 2 Investigates has learned from September 2020 until May 31, 2021, TDLR received 296 fuel quality complaints.
As of July 9th of this year, only 41 have resulted in any sort of violation notice. In 31 instances, the gas stations got away with a “warning letter.”
“It’s very hard to get someone to take action or to actually do something to hold him accountable,” said Simmons.
And that may be what lawmakers intended. This is what Representative Carol Alvarado told us when we asked her in 2019 why she was voting to move control of gas station fuel quality away from TDA.
“They were imposing fees that were double, triple, and excruciating amounts for various things,” said Rep Alvarado.
TDLR does not make it easy to search for the name of gas station owners or license holders. It’s not possible online. The agency recommends customers whose vehicles are damaged from contaminated fuel file a claim with their own insurance company to pay for repairs.
What should you do if you get bad gasoline?
If you ever fill your tank with contaminated fuel call TDLR immediately. In Harris County, you can also report it to the County Attorney’s office. Save your receipt every time you fill up your gas tank just in case. But even when you do that, there are no guarantees people will do the right thing.
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